Those who go through a traumatic experience, such as war, mass shootings, crashes or natural disasters, may have survivor’s guilt. These individuals may have thoughts that had they done something different, others would have survived. Some may also wonder why they were spared while others were not.
Survivors have gone through events that many may never understand. Being a survivor can bring various feelings such as; anxiety, fear, disbelief, but also relief, and a sense of happiness about being spared. All feelings and emotions are normal, no one can say what a survivor should or should not feel.
It is always alright to ask for help, please do not feel ashamed, or that your feelings do not matter because you survived. Going through a traumatic experience is frightening and leaves many people feeling that they are weak for being upset. Just because the event is over, does not mean that you may not feel sad, bad, afraid or guilty.
Some symptoms of survivor’s guilt may include
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Lack of motivation
- Sleep problems
- Physical symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts
It can be normal to have upsetting thoughts if you have experienced a life-threatening event. Guilt is a hard feeling to alleviate, especially in situations involving death. Being able to talk about your thoughts, feelings and experiences is vital to healing.
When someone has gone through a life-threatening event, those close to him or her may not understand. There are many feelings a survivor may experience, and not be able to talk about.
Often times, those who survive a life-threating experience, have PTSD and/or depression, and unless they get help it will get worse. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those who survive trauma.
How can survivors move past the guilt?
Coping with the guilt may not be easy but there are steps that will aid in helping the survivors live life again.
- Connect with a counselor for talk therapy
- Understand the past is unable to be changed; most people have situations they would do differently if possible, and may be easy to see in hindsight.
- Ask for help, find a support group, talk with friends about your thoughts and feelings
- Engage in self-care
You do not have to face this alone; seeking help will make all the difference. Understanding that you are not alone, there is someone who will be there to listen, to mourn, and to grieve with you. You can find a purpose, a new way to live and grow, a way to help those who have similar experiences. YOU matter, YOU are important. You survived, it is hard and can be heavy, but you have a purpose. Understanding your worth is vital.
If you have friends that have experienced trauma, check on them. Let them know you are concerned and that you care. Ask them how they are, or what they need. If they are unable to communicate their needs, just be there for them, listen to them, or just spend time with them. As scary as it may be, you can ask them if they are contemplating self-harm or have suicidal ideation. Sometimes the only way to find out how they feel is by asking them directly.
If you, or anyone you know are experiencing thoughts of self- harm, or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 800 273 8255.
I can help you process and work through the emotions and challenges you are facing with survivors guilt. Call me today at (972) 468-1663 for a free phone consultation or click below to schedule an appointment online.